Don’s Wild Duck Gumbo
(Cooked in a Crock Pot)
Wild Duck Gumbo Ingredients (for 2 people).
2 large wild ducks
1 onion (or more)
1 green pepper (or more)
2 cans Campbell Golden Mushroom soup
1 can tomato sauce
Lea & Perrins Sauce
Although I don’t claim to be a good cook, yesterday I cooked a Wild Duck Gumbo that was the best duck dish I ever tasted. I’ve been hunting ducks since the early 1980’s and have cooked lots of duck, but for the first time I tried cooking wild ducks in a crock pot. The results surprised me so I thought I’d better write down what I did so I could remember it the next time I wanted to make this delicious dish.
Let’s start with the ducks. I’ve cooked teal gumbo before but it requires less cooking time than bigger ducks. For this gumbo I used big ducks – two big Gadwall ducks (we call ’em gray ducks down here in Louisiana). But you can use just about any large duck – mallards, mottled, widgeon, pintail, black ducks, redheads, etc.
For the average eater, like me, one duck is enough meat for one person. I was cooking for two, so I cooked two ducks and even had enough for dinner the next evening.
Prepare an onion and a bell pepper. I used a half a big onion and half of bell pepper, but next time I’ll use a whole onion and a whole bell pepper. So you can figure a whole onion and whole bell pepper for every two ducks would probably be just right. I cut my half an onion fine and sliced the bell pepper in larger strips but it doesn’t really matter. If you like larger pieces of onions, I’m sure that would be fine.
I took the skin off the ducks. I then cut off the thighs (leaving the meat on the thigh bone). I then fileted the breast so I had two large breast filets from each duck. I used a large skillet and covered the bottom with about 1/8″ of corn oil. I don’t measure anything, but I don’t think that’s important. I heated the oil on medium-high heat. While the oil was heating up, I salt and peppered the duck meat (alot). I then browned the duck meat in the hot corn oil. It’s important not to burn or char the duck meat, just brown it a little. I did this as a suggestion from my friend Joe, just to give the meat a brown color. The meat will cook plenty enough in the crock pot later.
Pull the meat out of the oil and set it aside. Take a small sauce pan and fill it about 3/4 full – I guess that might be 2 cups of water – and boil it off to the side. With the oil still hot, add a heaping tablespoon of flour and stir into the oil to start your roux. After the flour is mixed in very well with the oil, add another tablespoon of flour and stir it in, then a 3rd tablespoon. I used 3 heaping tablespoons of flour this time around. Continously stir your roux with a wooden spoon or similar utensil. I like to use a wooden utensil that is a similar to a spatula and has a flat edge that I use to keep the mixture off the bottom of the skillet so it doesn’t burn. The most important thing to remember is to NOT burn your roux.
As the roux starts to thicken and turn to the color and consistency of liquidy peanut butter, it’s time to add the onions. Stir in all the onions and continue stirring and keeping the mixture off the botton of the skillet. By now the mixture should be getting pretty thick. Lower the heat to medium. Take the boiling water in the small sauce pot and carefully pour it into the skillet (make sure the skillet is big enough to hold the water!). Adding the boiling water to the roux scared the hell out of me at first. I’d always used hot water and used boiling water for the first time. At first it acts like it wants to explode, but it doesn’t and seemed to me to make a more creamier sauce. The whole sauce should be boiling pretty good right after you pour in the boiling water. Lower your heat and keep stirring. Eventually the sauce will stop boiling and it should be very thick and still the color of peanut butter.
With a low heat on the skillet, add Lea & Perrins Sauce, Tabasco sauce and Soy sauce. How much? Well, that depends on how spicy you want your sauce to be. I put about big 10 shakes of Lea & Perrins, about 6 shakes of green jalepeno Tabasco sauce (you can use any kind of hot sauce you want) and about 6 small shakes of soy sauce. You can use more or less and if you aren’t sure, try just a little, you can always add more later.
Add the bell pepper, keep stirring. You should be stirring this sauce the entire time you are adding ingredients. I bought garlic for my gumbo but forgot to add it. It tasted so good the way it came out, I’ll not use garlic in the future, but you can if you like – maybe half a clove (I use garlic in my teal gumbo). I also add more salt and pepper. How much? Can’t really remember but it was about 2 teaspoons of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper maybe. Remember, you can always add more later.
Now add 2 cans of Campbells Golden Mushroom soup. I guess you can use Cream of Mushroom, but I like Golden Mushroom. Add one small can of tomato sauce. Keep stirring! Now check the color of the sauce. I like a dark brown sauce so at this point I added Kitchen Bouquet to make the sauce a darker color. I guess I added a couple of teaspoons of Kitchen Bouquet. I actually just poured a little in and stirred, checked the color, added a splash more and eventually got it to a darker brown color that I wanted. It’s only for coloring.
Now add the browned duck meat to the sauce, stir it in and turn off the fire to the skillet (if you were making teal gumbo, you could keep cooking everything in the same skillet for a few hours, covering the skillet, adding water if needed and stirring occasionally).
But since we are cooking big ducks, they need to cook for a long time. That’s why I chose to use the crock pot but this is where it gets a little weird because the sauce is so thick.
Pour the contents of the skillet into the crock pot (I used a large one). The problem with cooking a thick sauce in a crock pot is that it will burn on the edges when on the high setting. I added another cup of water to the crock pot and thinned the sauce a little bit, set it on high and let it cook for 5 hours while I was at work. Shay came home from work for lunch and said it was a little brown around the edges, so she added two more cups of water and stirred it up and put the crock pot on low. She also add another 2 teaspoons of salt.
I was worried that my thick sauce would be ruined. I came home from work 6 hours later to find that indeed my thick sauce was now all watery. I didn’t think this was a good thing. I decided to pour the contents of the crock pot through a strainer into a bowl large enough to hold the liquid. I set the strainer with my duck meat, cooked down onions and green peppers to the side and picked out any bones that remained from the thighs. The meat fell apart in my hands!
I then took about a 3rd of the liquid leftover and put it into the same large skillet I started with 11 hours ago. It filled the skillet about a third to half way. I then poured the contents of the strainer into the skillet and brought the whole works to a boil – this was my gumbo! I realized I probably didn’t need to cook it for 11 hours but I was at work and didn’t have a choice. It could probably be cooked in a lot less time, but it sure tasted great.
When the gumbo came to a boil, I lowered the heat and simmered it for about 30 minutes, all the while stirring. With a wooden spoon, I broke up the large pieces of breast in the sauce. It broke up beautifully and the sauce thickened a little. At this point, you can taste the sauce and see if it needs anything else. Be careful not to add too much more seasoning because you are in the final stage. I didn’t add any seasoning at all.
While my gumbo was simmering, I made rice. When the rice was finished, I spooned the gumbo, draining most of the liquid from the spoon, on top of the rice on a plate. It was the best tasting and most tender duck I’d ever tasted in my life!
The next evening, I took the rest of the gumbo and heated it in a skillet and added the leftover rice straight into gumbo and ate it out of a bowl. The meat was even more tender and broken apart and the sauce was thicker. I seriously think it tasted even better the second time around!